Why Not Run Around Mt. Kumgang and Enjoy the Scenery?Mt. Kumgang in North Korea stretches about 40 kilometers from east to west and 60 kilometers from north to south, reaching 1,638 meters at its highest point. The huge mountain range is treasured for its beautiful scenery, which changes with every season and lends the range a different name in each － Kumgang in the spring, when the mountain is full of flower blossoms; Bongrae in the summer, the best season for climbing; Pung-ak in the autumn, when the leaves turn fiery, and Gaegol in the winter, when the mountain sleeps under a blanket of snow.
But South Korean and foreign visitors were permitted to visit areas of the range only two years ago. Now they have the chance to take part in a marathon on the mountain.
During the winter, Mt. Kumgang is particularly magnificent, adorned with many frozen waterfalls, its unusually shaped rocks crested with snow. Participants in the marathon, to be held on Saturday, can experience its exhilarating beauties at a swift pace. The marathon, sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo, is primarily an opportunity to enjoy the views with others, and not a race, though runners will be given an electronic chip that measures their running time.
The event will offer two courses, the Samilpo course, 25.9 kilometers, and the Kumgangsan course, 10 kilometers. People accustomed to running a long distance should choose the Samilpo course, which connects Goseong Harbor, Onjeongri, Danpunggwan, Yeonhwadae and the Mt. Kumgang spa.
Those not up to serious running, on the other hand, are better off taking the shorter course that goes from Goseong Harbor to Onjeongri, the Mt. Kumgang Inn and the Mt. Kumgang spa.
This is an opportunity to invigorate not just the body but also the mind. Both courses lead through unspoiled pine forests and all participants can relax in the spa baths after they finish. The marathon event also includes some sightseeing excursions.
The courses are not steep except for a short climb on the Samilpo course between Danpunggwan and Yeonhwadae.
It is expected to be warm on the day of the event (about 5 degrees centigrade) but it's a good idea to prepare warm clothing nonetheless. Applying Vaseline balm to the face and neck will help protect those who are especially vulnerable to the cold.
Stretching before running is a must and keeping a comfortable posture while running is also important. Remember that taking pictures is permitted only in certain spots and that camcorders with zoom lenses are prohibited.
Tickets for the event are available to all, including visitors from outside the peninsula apart from military personnel on active duty. Reservation is limited to the first 500 people who book. It costs 350,000 won ($280) per adult for three days and two nights or 430,000 won for four days and three nights.
For further information visit the organizers' Web site at www.tournet.co.kr (Korean only) or call 02-508-3933 (English available).
by Lee Chul-jae